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Bharat Biotech has agreed to share the formulation of Covaxin with other manufacturers to increase production of its covid-19 vaccine, the Union government said on Thursday.

Addressing a news conference, Dr V.K. Paul, member (health) of government think-tank NITI Aayog, said the Hyderabad-based company has agreed with proposals made by several states for sharing the chemistry of Covaxin to boost its production at a time when the country is facing an acute shortage of covid vaccines.

“There has been a suggestion from people that Covaxin formula can be given to other companies for manufacturing. I am happy to say Bharat Biotech, the company manufacturing Covaxin, has welcomed this when we discussed it with them. This vaccine is made by inactivating the live SARS-CoV2 virus, which is done only in BSL3 laboratories," Paul said.

“Not every company has this facility. Covaxin has been developed by Bharat Biotech in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research. We have already given this proposal to all companies, and we again give an open invitation to companies or whosoever wants to manufacture Covaxin. The companies should do it together, and the government is ready to assist in all possible ways," Paul said.

Bharat Biotech chairman Dr Krishna Ella did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. A spokesperson for the company also didn’t respond to emailed queries.

The development comes a day after Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia, said Bharat Biotech told the Delhi government that it could not provide “additional" Covaxin doses to the national capital. Delhi has exhausted its stock of Covaxin because of which around 100 vaccination centres in 17 schools have been shut, Sisodia said.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had urged the Union government to engage more companies in vaccine production. He said the Centre should take the covid-19 vaccine formula from Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India, the maker of Covishield vaccine, and give it to other companies who can safely make the vaccines so that more people can be inoculated before a third wave hits the country.

Covaxin was developed with seed strains received from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), and the phase 3 clinical trial was co-funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Earlier in April, in an early analysis of phase 3 clinical trials, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin showed a 78% efficacy rate against the novel coronavirus. The vaccine may also prove to be promising protection for children against covid-19 in future as the Drugs Controller General of India on Thursday gave a green signal to Bharat Biotech’s proposal to carry out a phase- II/III clinical trial of Covaxin for those in the age group of 2 to 18 years. The trial will be conducted on 525 healthy volunteers.

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